'Udta Punjab' puts Himachal in focus..

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References in the movie ‘Udta Punjab’ to illicit drugs allegedly being produced in Himachal Pradesh has led to the hill state working on a strategy to curb such practices in its pharmaceutical-industry belt.

The Alia Bhatt-Shahid Kapoor-Kareena Kapoor starrer, which ran into controversy over allegations of defaming Punjab, has a plot in which two characters “reveal” a politician getting drugs illicitly produced at a factory in Barotiwala for distribution as bribe among voters.

Now, various departments of the Himachal government — the police, the health department, and Narcotics Control Bureau — have been issued directions to keep tabs. “We want a joint strategy to check the drug menace,” state chief secretary VC Pharka told HT.

“I have heard that the movie has reference of drugs coming from factories in Himachal Pradesh; it will tarnish the image of the pharma hub,” said additional director general of police BNS. “We are tightening the noose around drug factories; strict vigil will be kept on both the banned as well as non-banned drugs to check misuse,” he added.

Cops suspect that chemical formulations being used for manufacturing legitimate drugs are being pilfered for use in other, upon-prescription-only drugs that are often abused by youth. “Police teams will also keep tabs on the formulations being brought by pharma units from outside the state. There are loopholes which need to be plugged,” asserted Negi. “We will check if formulations being brought for legitimate drugs are actually being used for that purpose only.” The state government has also asked drug authorities to keep a check on stocks of raw material.

There is an element of downplay too. Officials claimed that intelligence reports said some units that have now shifted from Baddi and Barotiwala were clandestinely producing banned drugs.

“For years, Punjab has been blaming Himachal for pilferage but the information is that some such units that were involved in illicit trade have now shifted to Ghaziabad... It is certain that couriers of drugs came from Punjab,” said inspector general of police (southern zone ) Sajjad Zahur Ali Haider Zaidi. Officials who did not wish to be named, however, said abuse of medicinal drugs was more in the areas bordering Punjab; these include places in Solan, Sirmaur, Kangra and Una districts. “Often, formulations used in sedatives and painkillers are mixed with other chemicals to produce party drugs,” said an official. “Drug menace is more in the bordering areas. We have chalked out something concrete to curb this,” said state drug controller Sanjeev Marwah, refusing to share exacts. He added, “We have asked counterparts in Punjab to give us pinpointed information about drug factories involved in illicit trade.”

There are more than 400 pharmaceutical units based in the industrial townships of Baddi, Barotiwala, Nalagarh and Parwanoo in Solan district, while more than 100 units are based in Paonta Sahib and Kala Amb in Sirmaur district. It has thus emerged as one of the pharma hubs in North India, producing drugs worth Rs 24,000 crore, of which export amounts to Rs 9,000 crore a year.